Pulp non-fiction – A murder story

In the perilous world of publishing, there is something called ‘sales or return’. It works like this. Bookshops will order so many copies of a new title. If those get sold, they might order more.

Unsold copies are eventually returned to the publisher who, in turn, gives the author the opportunity to buy the stock at a discount. The author declines the offer because he believes there is still life in his book and also because he is broke and he vows to never write again. The result is that hundreds, sometimes thousands, of copies get destroyed. Pulped is the term they use.

My new book, Durban Poison, was released in November. Normally, bookshops will return unsold stock over a period of months. However, a non-normal situation has arisen. My publisher, MFBooksJHB, is dissolving her imprint and ending her contract with Jacana Media on 31st January.

Today, Jacana issued a trade announcement directed at booksellers.

“In order to manage the inventory, we will need to have all the below-listed titles returned to (the distributors) Booksite by no later than 25 February 2020. No returns will be accepted thereafter.”

At the end of the list of forty books, the killer. “No orders for these titles will be processed after 31 January 2020.”

So. Quite a few anxious authors out there. Melinda has indicated that she will consider buying some – but not all – of the remaining stock of Durban Poison in the hope of selling it on.

After 25 February, hundreds of copies of Durban Poison will be loaded into a van and taken off to the knacker’s yard. This doesn’t have to happen. It’s in your hands.

Books that make people laugh shouldn’t have to die.

Buy buy baby

Hark, the Christmas tills do ring. The season of giving, taking, looting, stabbing and shooting is almost upon us. The Little Drummer Boy has already driven me from at least two malls.

All you can do is laugh. You have to, otherwise you’ll cry. This is where my new book is useful.

As you know, if you’ve been paying attention, Durban Poison is available in proper bookshops like Exclusive Books and Wordsworth. Other shops might have it, too. If they don’t, burn them to the ground.

If you want your copy scribbled in, you’ll have to buy it right here on this site. Just click on the Contraband link. You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, I’m on my way to the Post Office right now to despatch the first bunch of orders. I have even provided photographic evidence in case you think I’m lying.

Stock is limited, as is my enthusiasm for continuing to pay for packaging, postage and driving to the Post Office.


‘Durban Poison: A Collection of Vitriol and Wit’ by Ben Trovato is the funniest book I’ve read all year

Get your Durban Poison here!

I promised that my new book would be available on my website and, lo, it has come to pass. Praise be.

I’m happy to devalue your copy by scribbling something in it. If you want it inscribed to someone other than yourself, supply the name in the box marked Order Notes.

There is limited stock available. Seriously. I am not just saying that to sell more books. I’m not like the others. Also, given the reputation of the Post Office, early orders are advisable unless you want to get it in time for Christmas 2020.

PDFs of my other titles are also available. Just click on Contraband.






Boks, beer and a brand new book

Right. It’s the day after the big win and I know how you are feeling. But you’re in luck. I happen to have the perfect cure for a crushing hangover. It’s my new book, Durban Poison, and it will help tremendously in the recovery process. Laugh or die. The choice is yours.

Published by former smasher of drugs and crasher of Ferraris, Melinda Ferguson, the book has been selected by Exclusive Books for inclusion on The List. It’s also available in other bookshops and online. And as an ebook.

In the next few days you will be able to order a copy right here on this site. If you like, I’ll devalue yours by scribbling something in it. I might even get around to posting it. Coming on top of the Bok win, this really is the cherry on the koek.

What a time to be alive.


Durban Poison PR





The Ben Trovato Files

Who among us doesn’t remember satirist Ben Trovato’s outrageously subversive trilogy of letters to and replies from the rich, famous and downright dangerous? Well, the madness continues as the letters are reincarnated for the first time on video.

Featuring scenes of the writer himself, the letters come to life in a creative mélange of stop-motion animation, live action and a liberal dose of artistic craziness.

The episodes will be short and punchy, each featuring a letter and its reply, with durations ranging from ninety seconds to three minutes. The team has produced a pilot episode titled ‘The Two Oceans Aquarium’ from a letter Trovato wrote to the big house of fish. He got a reply without even having to bribe them.

Working on this project is a close-knit production team including cinematographer Dave Aenmey and animation artist Lindsay van Blerk. Dave has worked on many commercials, music videos, documentaries and feature films during his 30-year career.

Lindsay has directed and animated numerous award-winning films including The Velveteen Rabbit and The Chimes. He worked as storyboard supervisor and director of animation on the feature film Zambezia and has also directed and animated TV commercials and television series.

The material is drawn from the many letters and replies that appeared in The Ben Trovato Files, Will The Real Ben Trovato Please Stand Up and Stirred Not Shaken.

Anyone interested in helping to finance the series in return for a production credit is invited to contact Ben at bentrovato@mweb.co.za or leave a message right here on his site. Enquiries from producers and production houses are also welcome.

The pilot episode can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmafQMWDkrA

The Agony and the Methylenedioxymethamphetamine

Men in white coats tell us that hangovers are caused by the excessive intake of alcohol. Funny, then, how it was men in white coats saying, “Can I bring you another?” that caused all the trouble in the first place.
They would have us believe that the first step towards avoiding a hangover lies in limiting the amount you drink. This is meaningless gibberish and does little to help the person battling to survive a hangover registering 17 on the open-ended Retchter Scale.
Your size, weight, metabolism and body chemistry all play a minor role in how much you can drink. The main factors that dictate consumption levels are financial and emotional. If you are happy and in a good mood, you may find nine beers, three tequila shooters and a double Irish coffee to be an elegant sufficiency. However, if you are feeling downhearted you could easily put away 15 beers, 10 shots, five double vodkas and fuck the Irish.
Some doctors try to tell you that hangovers are caused by dehydration. This is like saying drought is caused by rain and I, for one, will sign any petition that calls for these charlatans to be struck from the medical roll.
Dehydration is caused when the bartender ignores you because he is too busy catching bottles behind his back and flirting with all the pretty young things.
In rare cases dehydration is also caused when a girly little hormone, that is meant to tell the body to conserve water, can’t hold its liquor and passes out on the job. This results in you having to wee every few minutes. With the floodgates open, the body starts borrowing water from less important organs – like the brain. This causes the grey stuff to shrink, which goes a long way towards explaining why stupid people with small brains suffer worse hangovers than smart people with big brains.
All alcohol contains methanol. I would have thought this is a good thing since it is also the fuel used in motocross bikes, and those babies can go! The problem seems to be linked to yet another design flaw in the human body. Instead of using the methanol to accelerate the mind, the body inexplicably breaks it down into formaldehyde and formic acid. Deformed foetuses and pygmy brains are preserved in formaldehyde. Ants and bees secrete formic acid when they attack. What the hell are our bodies thinking?
Some hangover symptoms are in part due to magnesium depletion. As we all know, magnesium constitutes 2% of the Earth’s crust. So before you go drinking, take the time to step out into the garden and grab a handful of that damn fine crust. You will be glad you did. Just remember to wash your face before you walk into the bar. Not many drinkers can handle the sight of a grown man with a soil-encrusted mouth spraying bits of grass and earthworms as he shouts for another round.
A Japanese study showed that taking five grams of chlorella before drinking can prevent hangovers 96% of the time. From what I can make out, chlorella seems to be some sort of algae capable of multiplying faster than that Russian maths freak who turned down a medal and a million dollar prize after proving the Poincare conjecture which states that in three dimensions you cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it, although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a sphere. How would you like to go up in front of a crowd and explain your thinking on that one? No wonder he still lives with his mother.
If the chlorella does nothing for you, try an antioxidant called dimethylaminoethanol. If that doesn’t work, whip up a Bloody Mary and wash down a handful of methylenedioxymethamphetamine. That should cheer you up in no time at all.

Leave your carbon footprint on Eskom's dumb ass

Operating under cover of darkness, thanks to those godless incompetents at Eskom, I knocked over the Weber after staging a one-man protest braai. The bad yellow-eyed woman woke me up several hours later. She was shouting at me about the carpet. I thought I was back in Angola and brought her down with a textbook scissor kick. Okay, that part isn’t exactly true. I pulled the duvet over my head and lay there whimpering.
She reached in and took me by the ears, dragging my head within striking distance. She pointed my face at the carpet. I thought she was going to rub my nose in it, like you do with a naughty puppy.
“What the hell is that?” she barked.
“I can’t see anything,” I said. Being half-blind with alcohol poisoning I could barely see the floor, let alone what was on it. That was when she rubbed my nose in it. It came up black.
“Do the rest of me,” I said. “I’ll qualify for a government tender in no time at all.”
She demanded to know why I had tracked soot across the carpet. “It wasn’t me,” I said. She got me into a half nelson and gave me a misguided tour of the house. The tracks led from my side of the bed to the fridge and then to the overturned braai. The tracks between the fridge and the braai looked like the aftermath of the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.
Later that evening a friend came around and made unhelpful jokes about my carbon footprint. Once everyone except the bad yellow-eyed woman and I had stopped laughing, he put on his serious face and started talking about climate change. It’s this kind of conversation that turns normal people into narcoleptics and I tried to change the subject but he was having none of it.
“Did you know,” he said, causing me to yawn so violently that I almost dislocated my jaw, “that Gisele Bundchen is the UN’s advocate for environmental awareness?” That stopped me in my tracks. The same Gisele who had scorching monkey sex with Leonardo DiCaprio for three steamy years? This Brazilian babe is way hotter than global warming could ever be. She would have exploded by now if she didn’t have some German in her.
He said we were making a terrible mistake by relying so heavily on coal for our energy. I couldn’t have agreed more. My carbon footprints wouldn’t have been all over the house if someone had bothered to invent a Weber that could cook two chops and a bunch of boerewors using a picture of the sun and two wind chimes instead of 10kg of Glomor Anthracite Large Nuts that don’t even burn properly anyway.
I felt a build-up of greenhouse gases and went outside to deflate. The ozone layer looked just fine from where I stood. He followed me out and said we owed it to our children to stop burning fossil fuels. I laughed. The only things that stand a chance of surviving a planetary meltdown are Durban’s cockroaches and Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
Besides, the last fossil I burnt was the spine of a baby brontosaurus dug up by my dog dug outside Langebaan. I may as well have built the fire out of wet asbestos. I won’t braai with fossils again in a hurry, I can tell you that much.
I told the assembly of two that the government must have a plan to deal with climate change, even if it does involve Blade Nzimande condemning it as white patriarchal class-related conspiracy and Julius Malema demanding that the racist climate must adapt, not us.
The bad yellow-eyed woman laughed, but on closer inspection I saw she was choking on a piece of lemon. My so-called friend began giving her the Heimlich Manoeuvre and I had to step in and separate them after it went on for too long and started appearing inappropriate.
With another filthy cold front sweeping into the Cape, I fetched some of the woman’s aerosols and sprayed the atmosphere in the hope of raising the Earth’s temperature. I don’t care if the South Pole melts. I grew up in Durban and I need to be warm.
Tips on cutting emissions:

  • Walk, cycle or take public transport. Carry a 9mm pistol made from compressed cannabis (R99 from GanjaGuns R Us).
  • Install energy-saving light bulbs and buy reading glasses made from twigs and shards of discarded beer bottles.
  • Place a blanket around your geyser. At night, put it to sleep by stroking its thermostat and singing to it. Anything by Cat Stevens works a treat.
  • Hang your clothes outside instead of using the dryer. Buy an eco-friendly Rottweiler to watch the line.
  • Eat genetically modified foods. This may not work if you plan on starting a family as two-headed children are known to be voracious eaters.
  • Steal other people’s stuff.


Up In Smoke

For a little light relief, here is a column I wrote some time ago.
There was a sphincter-clenching advertisement in last week’s Sunday papers. It came with a WARNING and featured a giant photograph of a thug pointing a revolver directly at my head. I automatically ducked and spilled hot coffee on Brenda who shot of bed and stood on the cat who attacked the dog who jumped on the bed and bit me in the leg.
After the paramedics left, I went back for a second look at the advert that caused all the trouble. WARNING. Sounded serious. The gangster with the gun looked pretty damn serious, too. He had the face of a man who has just walked in from a hard night of smoking tik with the boys, to find me shtupping his mother.
I thought the advert was going to advise me on what to do this festive season should I be confronted by a street smart sociopath suffering from dangerously low self-esteem and a violent drug-induced psychosis. But, no. It was a warning not to buy illegal cigarettes. Excuse me? Was this desperado going to hunt me down and shoot me if I bought a box of black market fags?
In a print size slightly smaller than WARNING, I was told: “The money you spend on illegal cigarettes, he could use to buy guns.”
Being a Cell C subscriber, I should be accustomed to having trouble making connections, but this was something else. My mental clutch was slipping badly. Then I read the even smaller print. “Often the person smuggling cigarettes is involved in other criminal activity. If you buy a pack of 20 cigarettes for under R13.50 it may be illegal. Stop your money from helping to pull the trigger.”
Firstly, what kind of self-respecting hoodlum needs to stand on street corners selling packs of fake Marlboro to be able to afford a gun? Here in Cape Town, if you want a gun, you stab the person who has one and take it away from him.
Your neighbour was shot by someone who wanted his car? Do you smoke? Are your cigarettes the genuine article? If not, you’re just as culpable and should hand yourself over to the police at once. Please let me know when you do, because I want to be there when the constable takes down your statement.
“Yes, officer, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. My neighbour was killed by a hijacker and I blame myself because I bought a packet of dodgy smokes last week while waiting for the lights to change. I insist you arrest me.”
Half a page is apparently not enough to drive home this valuable public service announcement. A separate advert, also with a WARNING, says that if you tick the box to any one of five statements, you could be in possession of illegal cigarettes.
Here’s one of them: “There are the wrong health warnings on the pack.” Would something like: “Choking hazard – not for children under three” fall into this category? Bit of a grey area.
Another says: “The readings on the pack are higher than 12mg Tar and 1.2mg of Nicotine.”
So what they’re saying, in effect, is that nobody should buy cigarettes that are cheap, strong and devoid of annoying health warnings. If I smoked, those are precisely the kind of cigarettes I would look for. What am I talking about? I do smoke. But only after the second hit of the fourth beer. Which, in my book, doesn’t make me a smoker. If anything, it makes me a latent dipsomaniac with self-destructive tendencies. Which is so much healthier.
The advert ends: “If you are in possession of illegal cigarettes and you continue to buy them, you are funding other criminal activity.”
Hmm. Something doesn’t quite gel, here. Isn’t it enough to warn people that buying illegal cigarettes is, well, illegal, without making them feel that they are also responsible for every violent crime committed in the country?
The advert helpfully provided an 0800 number for me to call, but I was unable to find out much because the phone was answered by a recording of a woman who sounded like she had been punched in the head one too many times. Probably as a result of someone having bought an entire carton of illegal cigarettes.
“Welcome to the TISA hotline. If you suspect illicit trading in tobacco or tobacco products, please leave a message …”
TISA is the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa. They protect the interests of the tobacco industry. Their members include British American Tobacco (BAT), JT International and Phillip Morris.
At first I thought TISA was behind this unbranded campaign. Then I discovered it was actually BAT itself. The company already sells around 20 billion cigarettes annually in South Africa. But that’s not enough, is it? If people stop buying contraband, BAT stands to sell an extra six billion cigs a year. That should keep the petty cash topped up for a while.
If there were any honesty or ethics in this filthy business, the advertisement would have read: “WARNING. The money you spend on illegal cigarettes should be spent on our products.” But that will never happen. Why? Because cigarette advertising is illegal.
I am going to give up beer and by doing so, give up casual smoking. No, I’m not. I am going to save up the money I would have spent on cigarettes and buy a gun. Then I am going to randomly shoot a bunch of people and blame the tobacco industry.
This is getting too complicated. I might just go and lie down for a bit.
* The author has since kicked the habit and befriended the monkey on his back.

Prophet and Loss

I feel sick when I think of all the people selling their icons for a bag of cash and a pound of power. More than 150 million plastic crucified Jesuses are pumped out each year. Cuba sells Che Guevara lollipops. Even the ANC once got Nelson Mandela to publicly endorse Jacob Zuma, a man who, in the old days, would have been tracked down by bounty hunters and brought in dead or alive.
Now, the family of the late, great Bob Marley has launched what they describe as the world’s first global cannabis brand. It will be called Marley Natural and will come in a range of different strains, cannabis-infused lotions, creams and various accessories. The new brand is being developed with Privateer Holdings based in Washington State.
So the family has finally decided the prophet needs to turn even more of a profit. Here’s what I expect we can look forward to in the near future.
I Shot the Sheriff – an Xbox game in which a posse of downtrodden Rastas must move 500kg of weed from Montego Bay to Miami without getting caught by heavily armed cops on the take.
One Love – weed-flavoured condoms in a range of red, green and gold.
No Woman, No Cry – a range of environment-friendly inflatable dolls.
Lively Up Yourself – tetrahydrocannibanol-based anti-depressants.
Misty Morning – toilet sprays that smell like the inside of a bong.
Positive Vibrations – a range of sex toys designed to resemble the smokeable heads of a dope plant.
Rat Race – a board game in which players have to score from a natural mystic, ride a horse called Natty and avoid being converted by stiff-necked fools.
Stop That Train – a range of hemp T-shirts aimed at rail commuters who are always late.
Turn Your Lights Down Low – a marketing jingle for Eskom.
Small Axe – a pocket-sized skunk-scented deodorant that attracts women and repels police.
Soul Shakedown Party – a virtual reality computer game with Rasta avatars who buy and sell the corrupt souls of crazy baldheads in a natural mystic place called Rainbow Country.
Ambush in the Night – a range of bulletproof hemp jackets designed for South Africans who work later than 6pm.
Burnin’ and Lootin’ – a range of affordable weapons for the poor.
Mr Brown – a restaurant chain that doesn’t allow white people.